Monday 31 December 2007

Booksigning & Giveaway

So yesterday I went to Murder One in London for the Sherrilyn Kenyon booksigning. This is only the third signing I've attended (the others were for Janet Evanovich, and Lindsey Davis), but it was great fun.

The folks at Murder One were fantastic, bringing mulled wine to the people standing outside in the queue. There is nothing like drinking warm spiced wine, when you're in the cold. I loved the store, and know if I lived in (or closer to)London, I would probably be spending lots of money there. As well as the signing I was able to pick up a copy of Evermore with its gorgeous purple cover. And did see a few other books I would have liked to get, if only it wasn't a few days after Christmas with my credit card still feeling the strain. I will definitely be keeping an eye open for any future book signings taking place there, and would pop in for a browse if I visit London again.

Sherrilyn Kenyon was really nice, talking to everyone, having her photo taken. And if I could remember what on earth I said to the poor woman I'd relay it here. LOL - Unfortunately my mind went blank, my mouth went into overdrive and although my brain was going 'Shut up, Shut up', I ignored it. Ah well, I'm sure she's used to that.

I also met up with Has from Kelley Armstrong's board. And after the signing, we went and had hot chocolate and pancakes and discussed urban fantasy til our ears bled. :)Spookily (as Has mentioned in the comments to Once Bitten, Twice Shy) after I'd told Has she had to read OBTW by Jennifer Rardin, it turned out to be a freebie book she got in her bag from the signing.

So, I have an unsigned copy of Upon the Midnight Clear by Sherrilyn Kenyon to give away. Just post in the comments about a booksigning you've been to, or one you'd like to attend, or if you're like me and can never think of what to write for these giveaways, just put your name in the hat. Giveaway done.

Saturday 29 December 2007

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

Jaz Parks works for the CIA as a partner to Vayl - CIA assassin and vampire. A supposedly straightforward assignment becomes complicated by the threatened release of a deadly virus. But it's even more complicated than straightforward terrorism, and with the end of the world looming, time is running out for Jaz and Vayl.

This is one of those books that ended up on my Amazon wishlist with me not quite being aware of it. But I am so glad I bought it! When it arrived with a Patricia Briggs quote on the cover, I thought hmmm, maybe I did know what I was doing.

Jaz is a female character who knows (relatively speaking) her own mind. She knows what her capabilities are and isn't afraid to stand up for herself, or for others. Written in first person point of view, this allows us to see that as well as a sarcastic outer voice, she has a sarcastic inner voice too. Which I love.

This is not a romance, though there is a strong chemistry between Jaz and Vayl, and their partnership is the central relationship of the story. In some ways it is like a marriage, their lives depend on one another, and they each have to know how the other thinks. I also have the feeling that their relationship will deepen over time. There is an emotional centre to the book, it's not all about killing things and saving the world.

Vayl is written extremely well. Unlike a lot of modern vampires, you believe he's been alive for nearly three centuries. There's a wonderful contrast between them - Jaz, so modern and now, Vayl a product of his long life and the experiences he's lived through. He has a delightful tendency to take Jaz literally ( a la Anya, my favourite Buffy character).
"If he's going to put some poor kid's face back on straight tonight I'll do the hula."
"Lovely dance, that. The story is all in the hands. I did not know you knew-"
"Vayl, I was kidding."
I don't think since I reviewed Magic Bites have I wanted to quote so much dialogue and share how good I think it is.

It's not all quips and banter though. There is an edge of darkness that runs through the story. Jennifer Rardin has written one of the most brutal, horrific and real vampire attacks I can remember reading for quite a while. It's clear that they are voracious predators, and it's only an individual's personal integrity that prevents them from becoming a monster.

You're also aware whilst reading that something very bad and very significant has happened to Jaz in the not so distant past. She's missing parts of herself, she'll have flashes of memory or something will happen and she'll be remembering an incident from her childhood. This gives the first person point of view an added depth, taking us further into her experiences. Even when we initially find out what happened to her, it still isn't the whole story.

In places I did feel the pacing was a little off. Kind of like when you want to fast forward through a movie to get to the good stuff. But this definitely makes it into my top five books of the year.

We're left at the end with the battle won, but the war still being fought. Luckily book 2 is already available so I don't have to wait to find out what happens next.

Also available
Another One Bites the Dust - Bk 2

Coming Soon
Biting the Bullet - Bk 3 - Feb 2008

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Breakout Author for 2007

For the past two years, and I'm not sure how this started, I've ended up picking the best (new to me) author of the year. Which for some reason best known to myself I dubbed the Breakout author.

In 2005 it was Elizabeth Vaughan for Warprize and J.R. Ward for Dark Lover.

In 2006 it was Nalini Singh for Slave to Sensation.

These are authors that caught my imagination and pulled me into the world they created. They wrote books that I didn't want to end, and left me desperate to read more.

So for 2007 it's Ilona Andrews for Magic Bites.

At least up until December. When I was lucky enough to read two new authors Jennifer Rardin and Jeri Smith-Ready who just brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye, with their books Once Bitten, Twice Shy and Eyes of Crow.

Breakout authors for 2007 - Ilona Andrews, Jennifer Rardin and Jeri Smith-Ready.

Are there any new authors that anyone else wants to recommend? Either new to you, or first time published.

Thursday 20 December 2007

Heart of Stone by C.E.Murphy

Heart of Stone is the first book in the Negotiator Trilogy by C.E.Murphy. An urban fantasy, it begins with legal aid lawyer, Margrit Knight speaking to mystery man, (Alban), late at night in Central Park. She later learns a murder took place in the park, and he's the main suspect. Problem is, he's a gargoyle and can't afford to be questioned by the authorities - there's that pesky problem of turning to stone in daylight. He needs Margrit's help, and before long she's drawn into the world of the Old Races, negotiating with dragons, bargaining with vampires, and trying to prove Alban's innocence.

When I started reading this I was unsure of how I was going to describe it. At the beginning of the story (with the exception of Alban) everything is very normal - almost too normal. We are pulled into Alban's world slowly, it unfurls before the reader as Margrit is drawn into the conflict and tensions between the races. So for readers who prefer their urban fantasy to open with an attack of zombies, a mob of rabid vampires or a big explosion, this may not be one for you.

Having said that I thought the story was incredibly well constructed. It's 'bookended' with similar scenes between Alban and Margrit, they've come full circle, but everything in Margrit's life has changed. We experience both Margrit and Alban's point of view, and his view of humans and the world around him helps solidify in your mind that he is something other than human. It's also very important to pay attention to what's going on in the background. A couple of times a character said something along the lines of - we saw that the other day when we were at the office - and I was thinking 'did we?' and lo and behold when I skipped back (rewound :) ), we had.

As a relationship builds between Alban and Margrit, they go from caution, to comrades, and towards the end they have a wonderfully subtle eroticism that was first hinted at during their meeting as strangers on a dancefloor. I'm very interested to see how their relationship evolves, as a romantic involvement with a human is considered taboo.

I like the set-up of the world. The five remaining Old Races - dragon (fire), djinn(air), selkies (water), gargoyles (stone) and vampires (other). Plus there are a couple of oddballs in there, who I hope will be making appearances in the next books. All the races have their own secrets, and as Margrit is pulled further into the world of the Old Races, we come to see that everyone has at least one ulterior motive, and some characters seem to have several.

I did have a couple of problems. I felt Margrit changed about 90 pages in, and that the character I'd initially been introduced to wasn't quite the same person. There are also three 'literally's', but I admit this is the first story I've read this year where it didn't bother me too much.

In Heart of Stone we learn about the world of the Old Races as Margrit learns, but at the end of the story, so much still remains a mystery, leaving you hungry to find out more. Why is Alban referred to as 'The Breach', and what favours is Janx going to ask Margrit for? In Margrit's conversation with Alban at the end of the book, she sets out her mission statement.
"Laws, Alban," Margrit said clearly, "are for reinterpreting, rebuilding, negotiating and discarding when they no longer make sense within the confines of a society. I'm not quitting just because the going's getting tough."
The story continues in House of Cards (March 2008).

Saturday 8 December 2007

Evermore by Lynn Viehl


I was very lucky and appreciative to be sent an ARC of Evermore by Lynn Viehl. A book I have been desperately looking forward to, since I read what had to be the best teaser ever in the back of Night Lost.

Okay, anyone who's read my reviews of the other Darkyn books, knows that I love Lynn Viehl. So you've been warned, I will however, try to keep this as objective as possible and the gushing to a minimum. :) And hopefully spoiler free.

I have never been able to choose a favourite Darkyn book before. To me there was always something unique about each one - Alex's spunky personality, Thierry's torment, Jema's fragility, Valentin's nobility, Lucan's amorality - that left me unable to decide between them. Evermore, I simply loved.

Evermore tells the story of Jayr and Byrne who we first met in Dark Need (Bk 3). Byrne is the suzerain of Knight's Realm - a castle complete with moat, where tourists visit to experience medieval life. Jayr is unique among the Darkyn as she is the only female seneschal. We join them during a winter tournament, when humans are banished from the castle and Kyn from all over the country and from Europe, test themselves against one another in sword fighting, jousting and archery. Byrne has made the decision to step down as suzerain, a fact which he keeps from Jayr. As their relationship strains against the conventions that keep them apart, an unknown enemy will use the tournament to seek revenge.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Kyn series, whilst each book follows one couple, there is also an ongoing arc between Michael and Alexandra (the couple from If Angels Burn Bk1). The Brethren (the Kyn's enemy) and John Keller are only mentioned briefly, but I think significantly. We also have new plot threads, notably the proper introduction of Robin of Locksley as a member of the Kyn. (I'd just like to say - YAY!) We also find out a lot more about the Jardin Wars when Kyn fought against Kyn.

I think Evermore is a pretty accessible entry in the series, as a major plotline was concluded in the previous book Night Lost. The plotline of Evermore is perhaps the most linear so far, and even though there are still multiple storylines, they take place in one location - Knight's Realm. However, there is also some fallout from Night Lost, as Alex deals with the consequences of her kidnap by Richard, so familiarity with the previous books is helpful.

There is a wonderful parallel in this book, between the relationships of Michael and Alex, and Jayr and Byrne. Jayr and Alex turned into Kyn under similar circumstances, trapped with a starving male Kyn. But the way Byrne and Michael handled the situation, completely different. Alex becomes Michael's sygkenis, Jayr becomes Byrne's seneschal. And the contrast between the two relationships is just wonderful to read. There is a point early in the story where Michael confesses his guilt over turning Alex to Jayr, and it's eerie, I felt like it could be Byrne speaking.

For me this is the most darkly erotic of the Darkyn books so far. Maybe because the feelings between Jayr and Byrne have to be repressed. The relationship between them is totally suzerain and seneschal, but underneath you are aware of this passionate intensity between the two of them that they deny. Partly I think because they have to work together, partly because of Byrne's guilt, and also because Jayr has not gone through puberty (a condition caused by severe malnutrition, not dissimilar to that of Jema Shaw from Book 2 though hers was caused by drugs). (This matter is resolved, and gives me hope that one day Jamys will have his own book.) This tension builds and builds until it HAS to be consummated. But the Kyn who seeks vengeance won't be denied.

Also worth mentioning again, is Robin of Locksley - whose past has come back to haunt him. Indeed that could be the other theme of this book - as both Robin, Byrne, Alex, Vivianna and Rainer deal with the consequences of their past. Robin's story entwines with that of Jayr and Byrne, this is definitely a book where a re-read helps clarify motivation. Just rereading the ending again whilst I write this review, makes me appreciate anew how well the story is put together. I think Robin Hood fans are going to find lots to sink their teeth into. I have my fingers crossed that there will be a continuation of Robin's story in a future book. As I'm sure there's much more for us to learn.

Jayr and Byrne's story reaches a happy conclusion. However, Evermore ends on a bittersweet note, and leaves me looking forward to finding out, more than ever, where the story goes from here.

Evermore is released on January 2nd. Highly recommended.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Children of the Blood - Michelle Sagara West


Second in the Sundered Quadrology, Children of the Blood Begins three hundred years after the events of Into the Dark Lands (Book 1). The last fortress of the Light - Dagothrin - is about to fall. And as Dagothrin falls, Sara lies sleeping, waiting to be wakened.

We see the events of Children of the Blood mainly through the eyes of Darin, the last survivor of the line of Culverne. Stefanos was present at the fall of Dagothrin but he couldn't bring himself to kill Darin, seeing something in him that reminded him of Sara. We first meet Darin as a very young child, living a relatively carefree life in Dagothrin. Through him we experience the life of the newly enslaved. MSW does not sugar coat his suffering or that of the other slaves. One scene in particular is quite distressing and had me in tears. This part is heartbreaking, bleak and difficult to read. But I think it is important because it illustrates how quickly the Dark can break not only an individual but also a people.

Ultimately Darvin is saved when he comes to work at the castle of Lord Darclan (Stefanos). He is put in charge of the care of a young noblewoman who lies sleeping in the castle (Sara).

Again I found I delineated the book into sections. With the first part being Darin's slavery, the second being his time with Stefanos and Sara, and the third part being when time finally runs out and the High Priest and Servants of the Dark come for Sara.

Sara is perhaps the weaker of the three main characters in this story. She believes through much of Children of the Blood, that she is a noblewoman who lost her memory during a boating accident. It's interesting to see the aspects of her character that remain true even though she doesn't know who she is.And to see the spell that Stefanos risked everything to perform slowly unravel.

Stefanos I found fascinating. In the three hundred years he has changed. He is melancholy in that he realizes despite all his machinations his time with Sara is running out. And that perhaps he made a mistake, instead of sharing a mortal life with his beloved, he has had no life with her at all. He still has the arrogance all the Servants and Priests of the Dark seem to have - I can't help wondering if that will be their downfall, because they can't conceive they will be defeated.

Ironically after the confrontation between Stefanos and the Lady of Elliath at the end of the last book when he swore to himself he would never do as she had done, he chooses to pierce the veil of the future as she did. I believe he has come to a better understanding of what love is and the sacrifices you sometimes have to make.

Although I didn't find Darin quite as engaging a protagonist as Sara I warmed to him throughout the story. Through him we learn how hard it is, when you have lost all hope and had trust stripped away from you, to risk yourself again.

I think this is definitely a book that would improve with a re-read. The first part is very powerful, and as a consequence the middle part where Darin is getting to know about Sara and about who he is - he comes into his powers as a Priest of Lernan - is much slower. I think during a re-read I would appreciate much more the sense of time running out in the middle section, the feeling that this is a respite for Sara, for Stefanos and for Darin, because as long as Sara and Darin survive, the Dark hasn't completely won. As we come towards the end the pace of the story accelerates, you can feel the time running out and how Stefanos and Sara are holding onto individual moments.
Together, by mutual silent consent, they walked toward Sara's chambers. There, in the curtained light, they held each other against the coming of the night.

At the end of the story Stefanos believeing Sargoth's (Second of the Dark Sundered) lie retreats from the world. Sara and Darvin have left and the battle between Light and Dark will continue in the next book.